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Unproven technology could hit wind power plan

GOVERNMENT EFFORTS to quadruple power generated from offshore wind farms by 2010 will fail because it is assuming unproven technology will deliver higher capacity turbines, contractors warned this week.

Wind turbines built in Britain to date generate 2MW of electricity per turbine but the latest government figures require bigger turbines producing 4MW each.

Trade secretary Patricia Hewitt announced on Monday that three offshore sites had passed rigorous environmental assessments and that owner Crown Estates could offer them to developers under leasing arrangements.

These sites are the Greater Wash, the Thames Estuary and the North West coastal region.

The government expects this round of wind farm development to produce up to 6,000MW of electricity.

Combined with existing offshore sites and existing onshore farms, 8% of total power supply could come from wind by 2010.

This would require 1,500 new turbines producing 4 MW each.

'Five years ago turbines were producing 0.5MW and this has since grown to 2MW. We must progress prudently and incrementally and this takes time, ' said Peter Clutterbuck, construction director at marine contractor Seacore.

Installation of bigger turbines will bring about economic benefits according to Peter Fish, an independent consultant and member of the Offshore Engineering Society.

'A large element of the cost is associated with installation, so by installing fewer bigger turbines the cost per megawatt installed should reduce. Similarly, with regard to offshore cabling costs fewer bigger turbines means fewer interconnections per megawatt' INFOPLUS www.

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